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A White Hat Approach to Web 'Cloaking'

Dipsie aims to make the invisible visible -- to search engines, at least.

Dcloak, a beta service that went live today, is a sort of white-hat cloaking service that translates hard-to-index Web content into easily searchable pages.

The Dcloak Beta is an automated, self-service offering that can be used by advertisers, search engine optimization consultants and Web site managers. It offers a mix of optimization and semantic analysis techniques that can be used to optimize the content of Web pages so that they'll seem more relevant to search engines, thereby driving the page higher in lists of search results.

But Dipsie aims to solve another problem: Web crawlers are flummoxed by dynamically-generated Web sites, as well as those that use page templates, cookies, forms and client-side scripting to deliver content. Even if the crawler can identify the content of a dynamically generated page, it can't return a searcher to the same configuration again.

"Even though they've crawled it once, many search engines are hindered by barriers to their entry," said Jason Wiener, Dipsie CEO. "They're not able to bring the user back to the page as it was originally crawled, because they don't have the necessary cookies or information."

Therefore, Dipsie offers a benign form of cloaking. Cloaking is a controversial practice in which the page shown to a search engine for indexing is different from that shown to regular site visitors. Marketers may use cloaking to draw users to pages that have many ads but little to do with what the person was searching for.

Dipsie acts as a translator and surrogate for sites that aren't friendly to search engines, placing additional search-friendly versions of Web pages on those sites' Web servers.

"We're making visible the pages that can't be seen by search, and showing search engines the best possible version of the content, but not modifying the content," Wiener said. "Users then have ability to go from the page we've put on the customer's site to the page that existed on the server."

To make sure its customers don't engage in misleading cloaking, Dcloak verifies that the content they've published through Dcloak is contextually and semantically consistent with the original text.

The Dcloak service also helps with general search engine optimization by not only counting the frequency of key words but by understanding how they influence each other, and then recommending alternative content. For example, a site for a public relations agency might miss a lot of valuable traffic from those searching for "publicity," so Dcloak would create an alternative page for the agency that used that word.

"You need to do semantic as well as keyword analysis, so that they play by the rules and good content naturally matriculates up," Wiener said. "You need to maintain trust not only with the search engine, but also with the search user. We're very strict on the concept of modifying content so it stays true to the original content."

Dcloak is optimized for the algorithms used by the top three search services, Google , Yahoo and MSN, but Wiener said it would improve a site's rankings by most search engines.

Dcloak customers can manage multiple sites attached to their accounts, reviewing pages, keywords, links, controls, and cookies via a dashboard. The service is free while in beta; Dipsie plans to charge $29.99 a month for managing up to 500 pages.

Wiener said that because Dcloak "plays by the rules," customers won't be penalized for trying to cheat, even though they are using a form of cloaking.

The application also recommends keywords and compound phrases to be used in bidding for advertising on Google AdWords and Yahoo Search Marketing. It can be integrated with WordTracker, an online tool that lets marketers identify the top search terms. Dcloak also lets users track competitors' sites, evaluating how they would rank in searches on various keywords and reporting on which terms they're likely using in their own ad campaigns.